By Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley
15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas – Brig. Gen. Paul L. Wentz, commander 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and Robert H. Bishop, Fort Hood's deputy director of logistics, presented awards and coins to Freeman Dining Facility and it's Soldiers for their effort in the annual Philip A. Connelly Awards Competition in which Freeman was a regional runner up.
Sgt. 1st Class Lucio Norris, Freeman's non-commissioned officer in charge and Newark, N.J. native, accepted trophies from the garrison commander and the Installation Management Command – West on behalf of the DFAC.
In addition to the trophies, Wentz awarded Freeman with a certificate of achievement and gave 13th ESC coins to several of the cooks who took on the task of transforming the facility.
The Connelly Award is presented only to the best DFACs and field kitchens after a competition which judges all aspects of a facility including service, presentation, and of course, the food itself.
"We were one of the few selected to actually be in the competition which -- is a real honor," said Spc. Jesus Alvarez of San Antonio, a Freeman DFAC cook.
The DFAC reopened its doors only 11 months ago. Despite being one of Fort Hood's oldest and smallest DFACs, it became regional runner up for IMCOM-West, competing against four other DFACs to make it to such a high level in the competition.
"I'm not sure who won, but I know it should have been us," said Lt. Col. Paula Lodi, commander 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
"Any day of the week you come in here, we're packed with Soldiers who come and keep coming back because of the atmosphere, the food [and] the service."
Wentz and Col. Larry Phelps, 15th SB commander, agreed. Both visit Freeman regularly and said they are pleased and impressed with the changes the facility's Soldiers have made to the DFAC in the last six months.
"The improvements in the Freeman DFAC were all thought of by Soldiers, wanted by Soldier and executed by Soldiers. Our goal was to be our Soldiers' first choice for dining," Lodi explained.
"I spent many a meeting with Col. Phelps and he told me what he wants ... and I come back here and ya'll shake your head like 'Sergeant we can't do that.,'" Norris said to his Soldiers.
But they did.
The path to success wasn't easy according to Alvarez, however.
"It was a lot of hard work [and] it all happened really quick," he said.
Alvarez and the other cooks had to come in early for two weeks to make the necessary preparations, Alvarez explained. The hard work and longer hours are worth it when he hears someone say, "thank you."
"It's good to know that you're appreciated for the work that you do everyday ... day-in [and] day-out."